The Navy today released its recommendations for the construction on Michigan's Upper Peninsula of an underground radio antenna made up of 130 miles of cable and designed to communicate with submerged submarines.
Administration and congressional approval for the $250 million to $300 million project, called Seafarer, is needed before construction can start, but the release of 12 volumes of environmental impact statements, studies and recommendations marks the end of a major phase of a two-year battle between the Navy and a growing band of Seafarer opponents in Michigan, among them Gov. William G. Milliken.
Milliken said today he will reiterate his opposition to the placement of Seafarer in the pristine, rolling acres of the region during a scheduled meeting with President Carter Monday.
The Michigan legislature is considering two bills to ban the construction of Seafarer in Michigan based on criticism that the project would scar the earth, disturb the environment, harm plant and animal life and make the region a target for nuclear attack.
Carter has said that the wishes of upper peninsula residents will be "a controlling factor" in his decision, but has stopped short of giving Milliken Practical veto power over the project, in contrast to former President Ford.
The Navy's recommendations leave open the posibility that a larger version of seafarer - 2,400 miles of buried cable - may be requested someday. The larger version would cost nearly $700 million.
In this smaller version, described as a "test," 130 miles of insulated, two-inch cable will be buried in a cris-cross pattern, four to six feet below ground, with all but 20 miles alongside existing roads.
The grid would emit extremely low frequency (ELF) radio waves - the opposite of microwaves - to communicate with submerged subs. Current communication systems require subs to cruise at low speeds, trailing radio antennas extending to the surface because normal radio waves are blocked by ocean water. The Navy says this increases the subs' vulnerability.
The proposed site would be connected by a telephone line or microwave transmission with an existing test facility at Clam Lake, Wis., according to the Navy's plan.
Michigan was chosen over sites in New Mexico and Nevada as the least costly and "best technical site."
The Navy has responded to environmental criticism with 20 studies of the effects there is "no cause for concern," if certain original design deficiencies are eliminated.
But the academy warned, for example, that a man in bare feet dragging an aluminum canoc across damp earth above an antenna end could be electrocuted at previously proposed voltage levels of 15 volts per meter.
Although the area's state senator has said the project location is a "federal matter," all upper Peninsula state representatives have opposed it, according to state Rep. Jack Gingrass, a Democrat.
"I'm disappointed," said Gingrass. "The smaller project will diminish the opposition somewhat, but the Navy will have its foot in the door and they will eventually just want a bigger system."
Of the 15 counties in the upper Peninsula, Gingrass said, 10 have voted on referenda on the proposed project. The plan lost in all cases by ratios ranging up 15 to 1.